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By: Jake Jacobs

Added: June 26, 2020

Summer 2020 Newsletter 

Social Distanced Baroque Ensemble

Members of Ensemble Vermillian of St. Albans’ Music Program fame will be performing unaccompanied music for baroque instruments from three different living rooms coast to coast. After viewing the concerts on Vimeo at your leisure, join us for a Zoom session at 4 p.m. on June 29 led by Barbara who will enlighten us on this soul satisfying musical genre for our times. Click here for details. 

From Executive Director Jake Jacobs

The times are uncertain, but I am confident that we are headed in the right direction to remain successful. We will continue to pursue our goals and objectives, knowing that  circumstances will require us to be nimble, flexible, and adaptable. I am grateful to our dedicated volunteer faculty, our experienced and dedicated board of directors and committee chairs, and of course, our scores of eager community learners.


I look forward to finding our way through with you and our remarkable learning community. Stay safe!


As we begin this strange summer of what seem to be unending crises, we are continually grateful for our DavidsonLearns community — learners, instructors, volunteers, and leaders. While we all look forward to a return to our literal classrooms, here we review the 2019–2020 academic year and share some information about what is ahead.

COVID-19 cancels the Spring term

The Winter/Spring term promised to be the most dynamic in DavidsonLearns history, with 22 course offerings and an enrollment of 456 students.  COVID-19 arrived in North Carolina in early March, setting off a series of local and state directives that ultimately produced a stay-at-home isolation order. All community education activities were cancelled as public health priorities prevailed over normal life. After the Board of Directors conferred on March 12, Executive Director Jake Jacobs cancelled the remaining Spring season, which consisted of seven courses and four live Spotlight Events.


Participants were given the choice of refunds or banking their payments toward future enrollments.


DavidsonLearns Annual Meeting

Nearly 50 DavidsonLearns members Zoomed into our virtual Annual Meeting on May 26 to hear Board President Wynn Mabry deliver his annual report and to vote on proposed changes to the DavidsonLearns bylaws. Here’s a summary of the meeting:


Review of growth and innovation

  • DavidsonLearns achieved its goal of continued, managed growth, producing a record number of courses, memberships, and course enrollments.

  • Curriculum, Spotlight Events, Communications, Facility, and Technology teams expanded, staffed with knowledgeable and experienced volunteers.

  • Members and course participants efficiently enrolled in Fall and Winter/Spring classes using our new DL registration system.

  • 18 Fall courses quickly filled, and instruction began at eight facility sites located throughout the community.

  • A new Facilities Committee improved the processes and procedures required to support the growing number of courses and new sites during the Winter-Spring term.

  • Communications continued to expand, resulting in a significant increase in first-time members participating in both course and Spotlight events. Notable progress:

    • a new brochure, first distributed over the 2019 summer break

    • signage to cross-promote the expanded courses and Spotlight Events, increasing awareness and encouraging attendance

    • presentations at area organizations to convey DL opportunities

    • initial work on a promotional video with BenCo, a local production agency, was suspended on March 12, to resume when the coast is clear

  • John Griffith led our Strategic Planning Committee in looking at long-term space needs, given the growing interest in DavidsonLearns.

  • Spotlight Events increased. Allyson Ray and her expanded Special Events Committee designed an array of 12 live events and three virtual events, with topics that included history, theater, music, community focus, and politics.



  • Each member of our Board of Directors made critical contributions to a successful year.

  • Pam Dykstra and Sandy Manly of the Curriculum Committee continued outstanding leadership in producing high quality, diverse, and relevant courses each academic season.

  • The talent and expertise of our exceptional volunteer instructors are critical to our academic success.


By-law Changes

DavidsonLearns has experienced tremendous growth in both size and complexity since its founding in 2012, and indications are that we will continue to expand our membership and offerings. To ensure nonprofit best practices, Board members reviewed our bylaws for possible updating and a more flexible structure.


Board member Mike Booe presented the Board’s by-law recommendations to assembled DavidsonLearns members, who, after some discussion, voted to convert the corporation from a member-driven organization to a board-driven organization. Members will no longer need to vote to elect directors, to amend bylaws, or decide other matters of corporate governance or organizational change.

Looking Ahead

  • The Board of Directors is confident that we will return to in-person instruction in time, but for now we are considering other options. We have formed a Contingency Planning Group to explore learning options, should social distancing continue to be necessary for the Fall.

  • We are forming an Online Instructional Support Team to serve if we go to online instruction. Currently, the Contingency Planning Group has developed four plans to enact, depending on evolving scenarios.  

Spotlight Events!

Since the suspension of classes and events in the spring, Allyson Ray and her good committee have continued to offer Spotlight Events — online! Members have enjoyed online presentations on marketing in politics as well as a community discussion of the new Foundation for Davidson.


Mark your calendars our next Spotlight Event

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